Now that a successful first season in the ACC is in the rearview mirror, Bobby Petrino and his Louisville staff will be turning their full attention to finishing off the already impressive class of 2015 recruiting class.
Louisville currently sits with a 25-man recruiting class, which equals the signing limit for a single class, but of those 25 players, 8 have already signed and are set to enroll early. Early enrollees count towards the previous season’s class, so with 17 players verbally committed, Louisville can make room for as many as 8 more players.
The Cards currently have the #27 ranked recruiting class according to Rivals, #32 according to Scout, #35 according to ESPN, and #32 according to 247Sports Composite. As they are on the brink of bringing in a top 25 class, the best may be yet to come, as Petrino and staff are still in very good position with several highly sought after uncommitted prospects.
Below is a list of players to keep a close eye on:
- Dexter Williams: There are five players in Louisville’s class who are listed as a RB, but as was the case this season, Petrino likes to play with multiple options. He would still like to add another body to the backfield, and perhaps Louisville’s top remaining recruit is this consensus 4-star top 100 overall prospect from Florida. Williams, regarded as one of the best 10 backs in the class, visited Louisville in December, despite being committed to Miami. He officially decommitted from the U on Friday, and Louisville appears to be the team to beat for his services, although Notre Dame, Florida, and Ohio State will challenge. At 6-0, 195 lbs., he is a big, fast RB with great balance and field vision. He is an excellent north-south runner who is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. Should Louisville land him, he would be the Cards’ highest ranked recruit, and with Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer now gone, and Corvin Lamb’s return in doubt, Williams is talented enough to make a significant impact as a true freshman.
- Jordan Cronkrite: Another former Miami RB commit, Cronkrite is an Army All-American and a 4-star prospect with Louisville, Notre Dame, and West Virginia among his top choices. The Irish are currently trending in his 247Sports Crystal Ball, but he will pay the Cards a visit on January 17th. He displays a lightning quick first step and has incredible cutback ability and will certainly make an impact at the next level. Perhaps what makes him most appealing is his versatility, as he could just as easily be a star in college playing safety or receiver just as he would running back.
- Brandon Martin: Louisville loses a lot at the WR position next season, with DeVante Parker, Eli Rogers, Kai De La Cruz, Matt Milton, and TE Gerald Christian. The also recently lost WR commit Dahu Green, who decided to re-open his recruitment, and they are now looking for his replacement. A new name that has surfaced for Louisville is 6-4, 200 lb. WR Brandon Martin, who plays for the Deion Sanders-founded Prime Prep Academy. The Cards are in need of a big-play replacement for DeVante Parker, and Martin possesses the skill set to provide a similar impact down the road. He runs a forty yard dash in the 4.4 range, is excellent after the catch, and runs a good route. He played in this season’s Under Armour All-American game and led all receivers with 68 yards receiving on 2 catches. He is considered a 3-star prospect by all services aside from ESPN, who gave him a fourth star, and he recently named the Cards as his top school.
- Emonee Spence: Another former Miami commit (beginning to see a trend?), Spence is considered a 3-star WR by most services and a 4-star player by ESPN. He is not a burner, posting a 4.75 forty time per ESPN and 247Sports, and while he has height at 6-2, he is a bit on the lanky side weighing 175 lbs. However, he runs great routes, can make every catch near him (easy or not), and he can make plays after the catch. He is being courted by Louisville coaches and South Florida legends Terrell Buckley and Lamar Thomas, and he visits the Cards on January 24th. The Cards’ main competition looks like Central Florida, where he will visit the week before Louisville. If he gets out of Orlando uncommitted, the Cards may be his ultimate destination.
- DeVante Peete: A big, tall 6-6 WR/TE prospect, Peete is considered a 4-star prospect by most services. He has great size, great hands, is a good blocker, and is a significant deep ball and red zone threat. He tends to start off a little slow out of his stance and as he lacks downfield speed (runs a 4.8 forty per 247Sports), he has been projected as a tight end at the next level buy a number of scouts. Regardless, he has the size and talent to thrive in Petrino’s passing game, especially after adding muscle to his thin, 195-lb. frame. He is set to visit the Cards on January 17th and also holds offers from Miami, Florida State, Ohio State, and Alabama.
- Sheldrick Redwine: Louisville loses Charles Gaines and Gerod Holliman to the draft and Terell Floyd and Andrew Johnson to graduation. The Cards are looking to restock the secondary, and it appears Redwine, a 3-star DB/S from Miami, is the top target. Redwine possesses excellent ball skills, is good in coverage, and at 6-2, he is bigger than the average DB. He currently favors the Cards over Charlie Strong and Texas and will visit Louisville January 24th.
- Jalen Julius: Louisville’s best shot at landing Dexter Williams? Sign up Julius, his close friend who he prefers to attend college with. Julius is an ESPN top 300 DB who Louisville has had atop their list for some time. He has a high ceiling in the secondary, but he may be even more valuable as a dynamic return specialist. The Cards would be very fortunate to land the tandem from Winter Garden, FL, but even if they miss on Williams and land Julius, they will still be getting a very good player.
- Kiola Mahoni: Bobby Petrino is looking for immediate help on the offensive line, as evidenced by him reaching into the junior college ranks to secure verbal commitments from JUCO All-American Khalil Hunter and OT Justin Sandifer from Mississippi. The Cards lose three starters in Jake Smith, Jamon Brown, and John Miller, and while redshirt junior Aaron Epps proved serviceable at right tackle, the entire line appears up for grabs next season. Mahoni is a 6-3, 305 lb. interior lineman from San Mateo junior college in California, the same school current Card Pio Vatuvei attended. He visits Louisville January 17th and the Cards top his list of favorites. He could realistically start next season at either guard spot or center.
Dark Horses (or committed elsewhere)
- Mekhi Brown: This Army All-American DE is currently committed to Alabama, but he is set to visit Louisville on January 16th. He attends the same high school as Louisville safety commit Khane Pass and top 2016 Louisville target Jawon Pass. He is considered the #4 overall weak side DE by 247Sports and could provide an immediate impact on the Cards front seven, who loses both BJ Dubose and Lorenzo Mauldin.
- Damon Arnette: The 3-star DB is currently committed to South Carolina, but he will visit the Cards on January 17th. He attends St. Thomas Aquinas high school in Fort Lauderdale, FL and has had favorable things to say about Louisville in the past.
- Tristan Payton: A 4-star WR and Semper Fidelis All-American, Payton is currently committed to USC. Yet, there have been questions as to whether the Florida native will travel all the way out west when it is all said and done, and he visited Louisville on December 6th. However, he has remained committed to the Trojans, and it appears the Cards would still have plenty of work to do. He also visits Central Florida on January 23rd, so it appears he is still considering staying closer to home.
- Mark Walton: Miami is losing commits left and right, and after losing Williams, could another RB be getting cold feet? Walton is a consensus 4-star RB committed to Miami, but he is scheduled to visit Louisville the weekend prior to national signing day. This one appears to be a long shot at best, but Miami’s situation is shaky at best, and if Louisville misses on Williams and Cronkrite, Louisville gets to a make a pitch at a pretty favorable time.
Don’t be shocked by…
- Non-Qualifiers: Every year, there are recruits who don’t make the grades necessary to make the jump to college. Current RB commit James Allen has been rumored to be among the players on the academic fence, as are both WR targets Peete and Martin.
- De-commits: Just as Louisville could benefit from some de-commits, they could face their own as well. The Cards have already lost two commits in WR Dahu Green and DB Kareem Orr, and the shuffling may not stop there. QB commit Lamar Jackson talks as if he is not committed to the Cards and is being pursued hard by Florida and Mississippi State. Other top commits like ILB Amonte Caban and OL Kenny Thomas are also being pursued by other top programs. That does not mean anyone should assume the worst, but in recruiting, it is never wise to get excited by verbal commitments. They are nice, but are not binding.
- The odd man out: Unfortunately, college football recruiting is a business first, and every year, teams are forced with the difficult scenario in which they may no longer have room for a player currently committed. In many situations, a team will ask them to “grayshirt” and spend a year in prep school or to open themselves up to other schools. It is an ugly part of recruiting, but it happens with every team. As of now, it looks like the Cards will be safe from having to ask this of any player, but if they end up landing a majority of their remaining top prospects and exceed the 25-man limit, they will have no choice.
- Position changes: Bobby Petrino has a knack for finding talent at one position and making them a productive player at another. Michael Bush, Lattarius Thomas, Johnny Patrick, and Breno Giacomini are just a few of the players who came to Louisville at one position only to succeed at another. Charlie Strong had similar success with players like Marcus Smith, Senorise Perry, and Dominique Brown. There may be similar cases in this year’s class. Trey Smith, classified as a RB, will likely follow in his father, Jimmy Smith’s, footsteps and become a WR. JUCO RB Tim Cook will likely move up a couple of feet to play fullback. Early enrollee Jaire Alexander is a DB recruit but could switch to WR if needed. If Petrino has talent, he will find a place for it on the field.
Signing day is February 4th, and there could be several pieces moving around between now and then. New coaching hires at Michigan, Florida, and others could throw a wrench in several teams’ recruiting plans, several players will commit and de-commit, and teams will have to figure out scholarship numbers.
The season may be over, but the Louisville staff will be working as hard as ever to land Louisville’s best class ever and give Petrino the weapons he needs to compete with Florida State and Clemson in the ACC. He is off to a good start, but if he finishes the class like many expect, the sting of the Belk Bowl loss will be soothed and fans will be on pins and needles waiting for the spring and summer camp to see the best class in Louisville history in action.